IUCN extends hearty congratulations to the Armenian Society for the Protection of Birds (ASPB), an IUCN Member, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. Founded in 2002 by experienced and dedicated conservationists ASPB has grown from strength to strength over the past decade and has developed into a leading bird conservation organization in Armenia. ASPB is also an Affiliate of Birdlife International, one of the founding Members of IUCN.
Back in 2002, ASPB started out with its first efforts to study and rescue one of the then disappearing species of Cinereous Vulture in Armenia. The bird population had declined by more than 60% over the last 40 years and urgent intervention was needed. ASPB worked to identify and prevent threats to the species, managing to halt its rapid decline and even increase its breeding success through supplemental feeding and guarding of the nests. This action earmarked ASPB’s first successful conservation effort and the species has since become an iconic image featured on ASPB’s logo.
Over the years, ASPB has continued to study wild birds and the habitats on which they depend in order to observe, detect and prevent the potential threats that endanger the survival of birds well before these become a problem. In trying to tackle a variety of conservation challenges, ASPB diversified its research and conservation work, shifting from regular field monitoring of birds to more advanced conservation practices. Its research work embraced techniques such as using wing tags and satellite telemetry to track the long-distance movements of birds, explore the habitats they use along their routes and identify threats they face outside Armenia; to set up breeding grounds for birds to help increase their population; to establish open-air ‘restaurants’ for vultures to provide them with an artificial food. ASPB's efforts have raised the population of the Cinereous Vulture from 5 to 9 pairs and prevented the decline of the Lesser Kestrel colony through the additional provision of nest boxes.
To make all this work, ASPB has taken a unique approach to conserving wild birds. A site-based approach to conservation has allowed the organization to identify and protect sites that support key habitats and bird species. Without a habitat, a species cannot survive. A total of 18 such Important Bird Areas (IBAs) have been identified in Armenia for regular surveys and protection, and to render this conservation work effective a network of local ‘caretakers’ has been set up to ensure local stewardship. The network of caretakers is now based in five Armenian marzes (provinces) where each Caretaker is matched to a specific IBA to monitor birds, assess habitats and help carry out conservation activities. It is through their local input that data on Armenian birds is now feed into global databases and used to update the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM every four years.
ASPB’s role in educating young children about birds and the importance of preserving their habitats is particularly tangible. Through its annual education campaigns such as Spring Alive and Bird of the Year, ASPB reaches out to 50 schools and 5 000 young students per year, through both onsite visits and online education programmes. ASPB’s greatest feat of all could be said to be the increased regard now held by the public for birds. In a country where bird watching has never been a part of the culture, ASPB has managed to spark a unique interest in birds, not only among children who are curious to see the wild coloured birds up close, but also amongst an army of adult fans whose interest in bird watching is growing day by day.
Thanks to all of its partners ASPB is not only active in Armenia. Together they are active worldwide in 12,000 Important Bird Areas and are reaching out yearly to no less than 1 million school children on conservation matters. As a reader and supporter of ASPB, you are also part of this unique partnership.